Friday, March 03, 2017

The disgusting

The Bush whitewashing tour continues. Here he yuks it up w/ about his "Mission Accomplished" faux pas:

Shame on Jimmy Kimmel for having Bully Boy Bush on as a guest.

I agree with Marcia on "Retire Ellen DeGeneres."

These people who are normalizing Bully Boy Bush need to be called out.

Toolkit to resist detentions & deportation, info on creating sanctuary spaces & rapid response networks!

Let's also call out CODESTINK which seems to think we've all entered into a legal contract that binds us to ignoring the fact that they refused to stand up and holler while Barack Obama was in the White House.

They're disgusting.

"Iraq snapshot" (THE COMMON ILLS):
Friday, March 3, 2017.  Chaos and violence, Congress goes rah-rah for forever war on Iraq, laments that Donald Trump may be harming the chances for a permanent US military presence in Iraq, and much more.

Senator Bob Corker:  Just based on the people you talk with, you get no sense that there's not a longer term commitment, do you?  Every US official I'm talking to understands what you just said about the fact that we've got to be there for some time.  You get no sense of that from anyone you talk with do you, to the contrary?

Hardin Lang:  No, sir.  I guess the question is the need to actually sequence and start the negotiations as soon as possible, while we're still at this moment of high level leverage.

Senator Bob Corker:  I think -- I think they understand what needs to be left behind.  I think those conversations are underway and I get, uh, no sense, for what it's worth, that there's anyone  that wishes to have another 2011 type activity [the US military drawdown].  I would just like to ask, are you'll getting any different signals from anyone?

Michael Knights: So it's true that there is a new understanding and willingness to continue the mission including with the coalition partners as well as US.

Senator Bob Corker: Yeah, no question.

Corker is the Chair of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, Senator Ben Cardin is the Ranking Member.  On Tuesday, the Committee held a hearing on Iraq and the two witnesses were The Washington Institute's Michael Knights and the Center for American Progress' Hardin Long. And there you have the tiny range of dialogue from the slightly right-wing Knights to the center-right Long and the organizations they represent.

No where in the hearing were you going to get common sense.

Taken for granted was that, because billions had been spent, more billions must be spent.

And they only mentioned the money -- the four -- they didn't mention the lives lost.

The Iraq War, which hits the 14 year mark later this month, must not end.

Not only was that the only position the Committee elected to express, no one was even allowed to question that premise.

If you're an idiot who, at this late date, blames the Iraq War solely on Republicans, let's note  a few of the disgusting remarks by Ranking Member Ben Cardin, a Democrat.

Ranking Member Ben Cardin:  There's no question we've made a great investment in Iraq and it's in our national security interest to make sure that Iraq becomes a stable country, does not become an Iranian-client state which is one of the fears I think many of us have.  We don't want to see the type of collapse we saw in the Iraqi Security Forces that we saw in 2014 so it does require the attention of the United States and our coalition partners in order to give Iraq a chance for uh a national government to represent all of its people and a security force that can maintain the security in the region.  So I want to point out a couple of challenges we have and then see whether you think we should be doing.  One challenge is whether we will get the Iraqi cooperation on the maintaining of our troops or a military presence in their country. There is political considerations here. When the president's executive order named Iraq as one of the countries we would not accept refugees that makes it difficult for the Iraqi government to work with the United States on the continued military presence.  Or when statements are made about taking the Iraqi oil, that certainly is not conducive to the type of political support that we need from the Iraqi government.

Oh, you grand standing bitch.

As a member of the House in 2002, you represent the people and vote against the Iraq War.

You join the Senate (2006) and you can't stop supporting it.

Ben is an embarrassment.

So is the US Congress as a whole.

Whatever happened to the Out of Iraq Caucus in the House?

Whatever happened to US House Rep Barbara Lee decrying the Iraq War?

At least Lynn Woolsey can say she's no longer in Congress.

But others can't make the same claim.

John Lewis, Charles Rangel, Jan Schakowsky, Maxine Waters, (again) Barbara Lee, Keith Ellison, Sheila Jackson Lee . . .

It's a huge list.

Even now with Jim Moran out of office, for example, or Tammy Baldwin now a US Senator.

Where is the sanity?

The discussion in Congress currently is even more narrow than it was from 2003 to 2006.

Nothing ever gets solved but how they thunder on today as though they have answers, as though they are the solution.

They are not the solution.

They are never the solution.

Let's just use one example.

Chair Bob Corker: So let me ask you this.  The Kurds are obviously moving towards independence.  We spent a great deal of time with them [on the recent visit to Iraq].  I know they're not quite as strident with their conversations with [Iraq's Prime Minister Hayder al-] Abadi but they're strident when they come see us here and certainly very strident in Kurdistan.  Give us a sense of the impact of that should they move, uhm, to uh-uh further cause themselves to be independent from-from Baghdad.

Michael Knights:  So, at the moment, the discussion in Kurdistan around independence, I think, has a very economic flavor.  There's an understanding that, if relations with Baghdad break down, the Kurds would lose access to a number of-of economic aid supports.  They would also potentially have more complicates access to international security assistance and that they might well face greater legal challenges at exporting their oil.  I don't detect inside the Kurdish leadership a near term ambition to push quickly for independence -- more to kind of negotiate a kind of amicable divorce over a period of five to ten years with the Baghdad government.

Chair Bob Corker: You want to say anything to that?

Hardin Long:  No, I would only add that at the moment when one spends time in Kurdistan you get the feeling that there's a tremendous amount of internal house cleaning that needs to be done.  There's a lot of political friction and difficulties between the different Kurdish parties.  And much of the economic state building program in Kurdistan is on hold. 

Chair Bob Corker: Mmm-hmm.

Hardin Long:  So in terms of Kurdistan becoming a viable state anytime in the immediate future, again, there seems to be a separation from the rhetoric that we hear from the Kurds and then the closed door conversations about what they really think is in the realm of the possible.

Chair Bob Corker: I think the fact that they'd have to ship their oil through Turkey and could well become a sub-state of Turkey if they're not careful obviously causes concern.  And so to have a non amicable relationship with Iraq would be very much not in their interest.

It is 2017.

Two weeks away from the start of this never-ending war that began in 2003.

And US politicians are still dickering around about the fate of Kurdistan?

It's the northern region, it's semi-autonomous.

The fate of the KRG should have been resolved back in 2007.

The Iraqi Constitution declared that (Article 140).

The US State Dept has never supported it while, on every other issue, insisting that 'the law' must be respected.

It's in the Iraqi Constitution.

It needs to be implemented.

But why has that not happened?

Because of the conversation we transcribed above.

Oh, no, Turkey might have a greater say . . .

It's not about peace.  It's about control of the oil.

And Ben can have a fit in Congress all he wants playing the elderly drama queen.

Reality: If US President Donald Trump's remarks meant that the Iraqi government would not allow a permanent US military presence in Iraq?  That would be a good thing.

Reality: His remarks don't matter.  The US installed the Iraqi government, it can't survive without US troops.  That's why Barack was able to get the Memo of Understanding -- that no one wants to report on despite the fact that it continues to govern the US military presence in Iraq.  He got that after the SOFA expired.

And Nouri al-Maliki did not say "no" to renewing the SOFA, he said no to the what he saw as the limited number of US troops Barack was offering (that would have protected Nouri's government).  Nouri did want a few thousands, he wanted at least 15,000.

That was the breaking point.

And we should also note that over five years ago, the RAND Corporation was noting that the unresolved issue of Kirkuk was one of the great fault lines in any future of Iraq.

But no one pays attention until they're forced to.

When things 'calm down' in Iraq, they'll be forced to.

Chair Bob Corker: Let me ask you, the PMF.  One of you mentioned those that are aligned with Iran.  Certainly, they should not be a part.  Look, most of them are aligned with Iran so?  I mean there's a law that's been passed relative to the popular mobilization forces.  It looks like they're going to be a part of the security infrastructure there.  They are very much aligned with Iran -- most of them.  There are a few that aren't, as you alluded to Mr. Lang [Long], but I mean this is a fact of life there.  I'm just wondering.  Uhm - uh, I don't see this not being a fact of life and are you guys sensing there's something, some different outcome, that may occur with the PMF other than them being part of the security infrastructure there?

Hardin Long: I think the real danger at this stage would be if you see the PMF -- or elements of the PMF, particularly the 3 or 4 large ones that are backed by Iran -- the extent to which they remain outside of the ISF [Iraqi Security Forces] -- and I think that there probably is a degree of intention inside of them to do so -- that becomes a danger point.  And then, for us, it's the danger of the investment that we make in the Iraqi Security Forces going forward to serve as a balance against that that becomes crucial.

Michael Knights: I know that the PMF are very splintered, they're very difficult to consolidate under one electoral banner or under one common control arrangement.  So splintering them down to their irreconcilable elements like Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq versus other elements related to the [Shrine?] militias -- and even Bard, there's always a potential   that a group like Badr which is the largest PMF entity could be mainstreamed over time and could be broken down into subcomponents with a clever policy.  Also anywhere where the Iraqi Security Forces is present, they're able to effectively counter-balance the PMF presence.  In a place like Basra for instance where there has been no major Iraqi army since 2013, we see true breakdown and true militia control.

War Crimes don't get discussed.

Apparently, it would 'sully' the halls of Congress.

Instead we fret that the ones carrying out War Crimes are 'too close' to Iran.

It's all a big dog and pony show and it's all depressing and disgusting.

However, Congress isn't the only place for whoring.

There's always THE NEW YORK TIMES.

Judith Miller, at her worst, wasn't as bad as Rukmini Callimachi, a War Hawk who's now covering Iraq and can't stop slobbering over the Iraqi military -- I've been told that Rukmini has seen War Crimes carried out as she has been embedded and has not reported those -- that comes from two journalists in Iraq.

She's a whore.

If you doubt it, read this . . .

Sometime I feel embarrassed by the extent of Iraqi hospitality. Here's the spread we were treated to after knocking on this commander's door

They feed you?

They feed you and you whore a little more?

You're supposed to be detached from your subjects.

Not Rukmini.  She's the ultimate embed.

Oh, and day 137 of The Mosul Slog.  Yes, it continues.

The following community sites -- plus Cindy Sheehan and the House Veterans Affairs Committee -- updated:

  • Thursday, March 02, 2017

    Sick of the attacks on Russia? Me too

    Sick of all the propaganda about Russia?

    Me too.

    Larry Johnson (NO QUARTER) reports:

    People insisting that Sessions “lied” under oath have not taken time to actually read the exchange that took place with Senator Al Franken. Here it is:
    Franken: CNN just published a story alleging that the intelligence community provided documents to the president-elect last week, that included information that “Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump.” These documents also allegedly say “there was a continuing exchange of information during the campaign between Trump surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government.” Again, I’m telling you this as it’s coming out, so you know. But if it’s true, it’s obviously extremely serious, and if there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do?
    Sessions: Senator Franken, I’m not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians, and I’m unable to comment on it.
    Franken: Very well.
    Sessions’ meeting with the Russian Ambassador had nothing to do with the election. Just ask yourself a very common sense question–

    Shame on anyone who is buying into or repeating the false claim that Russia “hacked” our election. It is a damn lie and will eventually be exposed as such. If this had really happened then we must ask a very basic question–Why did Barack Obama fail to call upon all intelligence and law enforcement resources to respond to this threat?

    Shame on anyone is right.

    Also note this:

    Buried lede: Why was the Russian Ambassador at the GOP Convention in the first place? An Obama administration initiative, reportedly.

    I'm just tired of the nonsense.

    The election is over.  Everyone needs to get over it.

    "Iraq snapshot" (THE COMMON ILLS):
    Thursday, March 2, 2017.  Chaos and violence continue, The Mosul Slog continues, if the frequently reported dead Abu Baghdadi is dead he apparently returned as a ghost to issue a message, what is the State Dept not doing, and we look a burn pits.

    Iraq War veteran Amie Muller died last month.  Her death is most likely related to her exposure to the burn pits.  Jennifer Mayerle (WCCO) speaks with her family including her widow Brian Muller:

    The Mullers believe Amie’s diagnosis is linked to her time in the Air National Guard. She did two tours in Iraq, in 2005 and 2007. And during that time she was exposed to toxic burn pits — where it’s documented that chemicals, paint, aluminum cans, munitions, petroleum, among other things, were constantly burned.
    “Environmental, that’s the biggest cause of cancer, so there’s no question that a 36 year old with pancreatic cancer, with no history of pancreatic cancer in her family, that had to be related,” Brian said.
    During her journey, Amie had the strength to stand up for veterans who were also exposed. She worried the answers will come too late for many.

    “My dedication to her is to honor that and to keep that story alive and make sure that veterans get taken care of,” Brian said. 

    June 13, 2012, Senator Mark Udall explained burn pits while speaking to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee:

    In both Afghanistan and Iraq, open air burn pits were widely used at forward operating bases.  Disposing of trash and other debris was a major challenge.  Commanders had to find a way to dispose of waste while concentrating on the important mission at hand.  The solution that was chosen, however, had serious risks.  Pits of waste were set on fire -- sometimes using jet fuel for ignition.  Some burn pits were small but others covered multiple acres of land. Often times, these burn pits would turn the sky black.  At Joint Base Balad Iraq, over 10 acres of land were used for burning toxic debris.  At the height of its operations, Balad hosted approximately 25,000 military, civilian and coalition provision authority personnel.  These personnel would be exposed to a toxic soup of chemicals released into the atmosphere.  According to air quality measurements, the air at Balad had multiple particulates harmful to humans: Plastics and Styrofoams, metals, chemicals from paints and solvents, petroleum and lubricants, jet fuel and unexploded ordnance, medical and other dangerous wastes.  The air samples at Joint Base Balad turned up some nasty stuff. Particulate matter, chemicals that form from the incomplete burning of coal, oil and gas garbage or other organic substances, volatile organic compounds such as acetone and benzene  -- benzene, as you all know, is known to cause leukemia --  and dioxins which are associated with Agent Orange.  According to the American Lung Association, emissions from burning waste contain fine particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and various irritant gases such as nitrogen oxides that can scar the lungs. All of this was in the air and being inhaled into the lungs of service members.

    Udall was championing a burn pit registry in the Senate.  It was a long battle and included many supporters in Congress (such as former Senator Evan Bayh and former US House Rep Todd Akin) and veterans, VSOs, family members and more.

    And while that was ultimately successful, all that has happened thus far has been a registry.

    And people are suffering and dying.

    Last week, Mark Brunswick (STAR TRIBUNE) reported:

    On Feb 24, more than 800 of her friends and family gathered at a memorial service in Woodbury to remember the life of the 36-year-old mother of three. A pastor noted her loss was both painful and seemingly incomprehensible.
    "I wish there was a simple way to explain what has happened to Amie. Why Amie is gone," said Pastor Lisa Renlund. "Life truly isn't that simple. It can get messy. It can feel complicated. It can seem unfair."

    But others also are remembering Muller's battle to win recognition from the U.S. government for victims of the burn pits, which have the potential of becoming the Iraq and Afghanistan wars' equivalent of the Vietnam War's Agent Orange. It took nearly three decades for the U.S. government to eventually link the defoliant used in Vietnam to cancer.

    And when that happened, please note, it ended Jim Webb's political career.

    Webb had been the rising star Democrat because there's nothing the press likes better than a 'moderate' (in this case, a Republican who switched to the Democratic Party to run for office).  And they made him a star.

    But Webb slit his own political throat by opposing the victims of Agent Orange.

    Let's drop back to the September 23, 2010 report on that day's Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing:

    Today we heard US Senator Jim Webb babble on and, when he's insincere, his voice cracks.  It was like the episode of The Brady Bunch where the kids are set to record a song but Peter's voice begins changing and won't stop cracking.  As he used opening remarks to recount his entire resume at length -- everything but working the counter one night and giving a veteran a free milk shake -- that voice cracked and cracked.  Why was that such a hard thing for him.  "We have a duty," Webb insisted as he added coughs to his bag of tricks.  And "this is not simply a cost item."  Oh, now you may be getting why Webb was freaking out.
    If not, join us as we drop back to the June 15, 2010 snapshot:
     WAVY reports (link has text and video) that victims of Agent Orange (specifically Vietnam era veterans) could recieve addition beneifts for B-Cell Leukemia, Parkinson's disease and coronary heart disease.  Could?  A US Senator is objecting to the proposed changes by VA.  Jim Webb has written VA Secretary Eric Shinseki that ". . . this single executive decision is estimated to cost a minimum of $42.2 billion over the next ten years. A regulatory action of this magnitude requires proper Congressional review and oversight."  Besides, Webb wrote, "Heart disease is a common phenomenon regardless of potential exposure to Agent Orange." That is really embarrasing and especially embarrassing for the Democratic Party (Webb is a Democrat today, having converted from a Reagan Republican).  It also goes a long way towards explaining Webb's refusal to get on board with Senator Evan Bayh's bill to create a national registry that would allow those Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans to be able to receive treatment for their exposures without having to jump through hoops repeatedly.
    And if you doubted that Webb was about to try to pull out the axe on Vietnam veterans benefits, you had to only give him a few more seconds as he began bemoaning that the law was written one way (yes, he is a 'framers' intent' and 'original construction' type politician)  and then expanded (to "dual presumptioms both based on very broad categorizations").  What are the expansions?  It's been expanded to allow payments to Vietnam Veterans suffering from Parkinson's disease, ischemic heart disease and hairy cell leukemia.  VA Secretary Eric Shinseki is not someone we praise blindly here (to put it mildly) but the hearing was really about Shinseki's 'performance,' specifically with regards to expanding the categories -- based on medical and science evidence -- qualifying for payments. 
    There's a whole dance going on beneath the hearing that few will ever notice.  If there was anything sadder than Webb's remarks it was Senator Jon Tester who felt the need to praise Webb "for asking some very tough questions."  To watch some of the  senators today was to be aware they appeared to think leukemia, heart disease and Parknson's is little more troubling than adult acne.

    Senator Roland Burris was one of the most straightforward and it's too bad that the Democratic Party establishment loathed him because, as usual, when veterans needed an advocate on the Committee, Senator Burris could be counted on.  "There's no price that we could put on what we can do with those veterans suffering from those chemicals that were sprayed throughout that country."  "Budget shortfalls," Burris noted, were no excuse for not providing for veterans.   Was it telling that Jon Tester walked out while Burris was making that statement?  Maybe he was just needed elsewhere.  Although that certainly doesn't explain the ugly glare visible on his face as he left, now does it?
    These moves are what destroyed Webb's career.  Veterans and veterans groups followed what The Debra Messings never do.  They didn't need a meme or Instagram to give them marching orders, they merely followed actual events.
    And the backlash is why Webb did not seek re-election and why his attempt to secure the Democratic Party's presidential nomination was so brief.
    He destroyed his own political career by refusing to honor the victims of Agent Orange.
    That should be true for all those who refuse to honor the victims of the burn pits.
    Again, there is a registry now.  That's really it.  It's time for real Congressional action and America should be watching to see who supports the veterans and who betrays them -- the latter group should be sent packing as swiftly as 'rising star' Jim Webb was.

    WDIO notes:

    Senator Amy Klobuchar said over the phone on Monday that 36 is far too young, to lose someone like Amie. She also said in a statement, "We owe her our gratitude. My heart goes out to her family and friends. There are an increasing number of our brave men and women returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan citing illnesses potentially caused by burn pits exposure. I am going to keep fighting so that these veterans receive the support and care they need."
    There is a Burn Pit registry, which nearly 100,000 veterans have signed up for. Klobuchar has introduced legislation that would create a center of excellence, so the information from the registry can be used to help these vets.

    Day 136 of The Mosul Slog.  There are reports (such as here) that Abu Baghdadi, supposed leader of the Islamic State, has declared that ISIS has been defeated.  Of course, over the last two years, there have been repeated reports that he has been killed.

    If he is alive, possibly he has admitted defeat.

    Regardless, the fighting goes on.

    And the dying.


    A number of civilians and suspected [Islamic State] members were killed in an attack that hit a mosque that was being attended by residents and damaged neighbouring houses in the west of the Iraqi city of Mosul yesterday, three residents said today.
    The Omar Al-Aswad mosque, in the Al-Faruq district of the old city centre, was hit by an airstrike, three residents in the same area told Reuters by phone.

    Neighbouring houses were damaged or collapsed because of the blast, they said without giving a precise estimate of the casualties as their moves are restricted by the militants and also Iraqi government shelling and aerial attacks.

    The 'success' -- it's also noted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees today:

    191,826 persons internally displaced from Mosul and surrounding areas since military operations to retake the city resumed on 17 October 20161
    21,770 UNHCR kits of core relief items (CRIs) distributed to families in camps, assisting some 129,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Mosul and surrounding areas
    7,167 family plots are currently occupied out of 14,781 family plots (for some 88,000 people) in UNHCR built camps that are ready to receive IDPs displaced from Mosul corridor.
    3 million IDPs since January 20142

    250,952 Iraqi refugees registered and hosted in countries in the region, in addition to 13,768 Iraqis received in Al Hol camp in Syria since 17 October 2016

    UNAMI kind of made an announcement today -- shifting it to FACEBOOK instead of their usual outlet:

    On the release of news -- are we going to be the only ones noting that the entire month of February passed without a single US State Dept daily press briefing.
    There was none.
    There was not one yesterday, March 1st, and there's not one scheduled for today.
    Are we going to be the only ones noting this?
    We covered the State Dept under Bully Boy Bush and under President Barack Obama.
    There was never a month taken off.  Outside of Christmas holidays, there was never a week taken off.
    The following community sites -- plus Cindy Sheehan, PACIFICA EVENING NEWS, BLACK AGENDA REPORT and DISSIDENT VOICE --  updated: